A non-binding article seeking continued support of the town’s efforts to promote wind energy by operating the town’s two wind turbines passed by a majority vote at Special Town Meeting Tuesday night, November 10.
The petition article, which was put forth by members of the Falmouth Climate Action Team, was supported by a 118-85 vote Tuesday. As a non-binding article, no definitive action will be taken regarding the operation of the turbines on the strength of the vote.
Precinct One members Ronald D. Zweig and Richard K. Latimer addressed Town Meeting in support of the turbines’ continued operation. Mr. Zweig said that at the 2013 town election, 54 percent of residents voted in support of keeping the turbines running in Precinct Six, the area abutting the turbines on Blacksmith Shop Road. He also pointed out the financial implications of stopping the turbines, including $10 million in decommission costs and an additional $15 million in lost revenue.
Mr. Zweig added that many health complaints made by abutters relative to the turbines have been “self reported,” and that there is not sufficient evidence to suggest that the turbines are to blame for ailments such as headaches, nausea, lack of sleep, and stress.
“How many jobs will be lost, how many families displaced because of this action?” Mr. Zweig asked of the potential ramifications of stopping the turbines.
Mr. Latimer said that stopping the turbines would be a waste of both state and taxpayer dollars, and criticized residents who challenge the town’s efforts to promote wind energy and climate change.
“They’re serving fossil fuel companies, Eversource, and the Koch Brothers. That’s right,” he said. Mr. Latimer encouraged the town to look at other avenues for addressing the abutters’ concerns apart from taking down the turbines, including offering abutters settlements or buyouts.
However, many who spoke Tuesday night expressed frustration with the lack of progress with the turbines. Judith Fenwick, a member of Precinct One, said while she initially supported the construction of the wind turbines, she believes the town should begin exploring options for solar energy.
“The hard political reality is we have to move beyond wind, with all of its messy, moving parts, and move toward solar,” Ms. Fenwick said.
Brent Putnam, a resident of Precinct Nine, also expressed disappointment with the town’s turbines.
“We’re still fishing, but we’re not pulling any fish,” he said. “I ask you to vote this down.
Precinct Six resident Marc P. Finneran applauded Mr. Zweig’s work on other town issues, including the ongoing sewer projects. But he challenged Mr. Zweig’s facts regarding the cost effects of stopping the turbines. He said there is no guarantee that the turbines would generate $15 million worth of energy, adding that the turbines would not need to be taken down at all.
Mr. Finneran also accused the town of “bait and switch” tactics, claiming it promised residents it would construct smaller, 660 megawatt turbines before building the much larger turbines currently in operation. He added that he believes abutters’ health concerns are valid.
“I believe these people,” he said, referring to abutters to the turbines. “I believe we’re doing damage to them. This was a bait and switch, and it’s illegal.”
Kathleen R. Driscoll, a resident of Precinct Seven, said while the 660 kW turbines were discussed, they were never decided upon by the town.
Linda D. Whitehead, a member of Precinct One, said you can “feel” the impact of the wind turbines, and noted that there are more people affected by the turbines than residents may be aware of.
“This is not a handful of people,” Ms. Whitehead said. “It’s 40 families. If you’re thinking about taking houses away, you think about that.”
Others in attendance, including Thomas Walrath of Precinct Three, said Town Meeting should stand by the vote at the 2013 town election, where a two-thirds majority voted against taking down the turbines.
“I like the idea that we have democracy, and that that vote counts,” he said.
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